It’s a match: How to win the talent war

Carolina Borrachia

Between love and rejection

“Unfortunately, you’re not the one we’re looking for but … your CV will be saved for future searches!” To the candidate, this phrase means only one thing: rejection. The end of the opportunity. Empty hands. Rejection is the quintessential experience that an employer brand provides today. We have all been rejected by an employer brand. Therefore, the more interest a company shows in a candidate, the more it puts their ability to attract at risk. That’s because today it’s “all or nothing.” You work with me or I reject you. Employer brands think about only talent, about the “talent war,” about how to fill vacancies. They ask themselves: Is he/she the one? Yes or no? The opportunity stems from the way we connect with candidates. We must create win-win experiences that can resignify the rejection.

However, there are a lot of things between acceptance and rejection. The world isn’t always black or white. It changes forms, experiences, circumstances. If, on a romantic date, a man makes me feel beautiful and intelligent, but for whatever reason we don’t see each other again, at least I took away something good from that situation. The experience was not only about rejection.

With how many people do we experience attraction? The answer is, many more than we get to fall in love with. In most of those cases, one feels “we wouldn’t work for X reason”. Think of these people: most likely, despite the obvious attraction, there’s no mutual choice, for a definite or shared reason, ranging from “he/she is gay” to “she/he is too structured.” I am very aware of how complex it is to fall in love; more significant yet is the statistical improbability of this happening between two people. However, the only path to love is to try to get to know someone and to allow them to get to know me. If we won’t work well together, it’s better to know this as soon as possible. All the time that I invest in a person who isn’t “it” for me is time that I’m not spending with someone who is.

I believe that the love of our life is a Match: a mutual choice. The problem with employer brands is that they don’t show the candidate that the rejection is taking place on both sides. For example, the candidate couldn’t survive the company’s culture or handle the pace of work. A person who works in the selection process is always seeking compatibility. In the old paradigm, rejection is not mutual because the candidate isn’t given the ability to realize why we aren’t the company for him. Companies don’t usually provide honest feedback when they don’t hire a person. The closest thing to feedback is “we chose another candidate.” And not only do companies not explain why someone wasn’t chosen, they don’t explain to the person who was chosen what led to that decision.

In the same way, those who are already employees suffer from a lack of communication. They don’t necessarily know how they are seen. In many companies, people with high potential don’t know that they maintain this status. Above all, we must break with the unidirectionality of communication. This is because companies, by engaging in one-way communication, are missing very interesting feedback – feedback that would improve the selection process, employees’ relationships with their bosses, the employee value proposal and the benefits program.

In the old paradigm, the company acts unilaterally in the selection process. It alone decides. This paradigm is based on the notion that each CV is the equivalent of a Tinder profile; if I like a CV, I get a match. And then what happens? The candidate is invited to meet the company! Think about it! It’s crazy! And so you lose a lot of time and money. It’s a lose-lose because a candidate who doesn’t choose me is a candidate I don’t want. We must know each other first. We must choose each other.

It’s a match! Why Tinder?

It’s a Match! is the phrase that typifies Tinder, the app for finding a partner. Most likely, you already knew that. As I write this, Tinder has millions of active daily users and more than one billion profiles. Each day, 15 million matches are produced. What is Tinder doing in this book? Why is it so important? Because Tinder is a perfect example of the new paradigm. Tinder facilitates a connection between people in the shortest possible time. It allows us to very quickly dismiss those who, at first sight, don’t interest us. It clears the panorama so that we can dedicate more energy to those who have some kind of mutual interest with us.

Tinder doesn’t replace human contact; it increases your chances. It allows you to filter profiles of interest. It provides opportunities. You can engage in several conversations at the same time. Tinder generates contact between people who otherwise wouldn’t cross paths and it avoids the feeling of rejection: Contact occurs only between those who like each other. Tinder’s paradigm has changed the way we meet people either for a night of sex or to establish a lifelong love. In the old paradigm, dating portals embodied the promise of connecting with “the love of your life,” requires those interested to invest a lot of time and to enter all kinds of information, “ensuring” a certain compatibility that could collapse upon the first in-person visual contact. By contrast, the Tinder paradigm is revolutionizing human relationships. Yet beyond any app, the mindset it represents hasn’t yet affected the way companies and candidates are chosen. It’s time to open ourselves up to that opportunity.

Would you fight a war with weapons from 1482?

I’m the one who writes now, but I’m also the one who paints pictures. I’m Ringo’s mother, an activist who promotes awareness of the spread of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, a lover of flowers and much more. I am many and I am one. No one from my generation feels like “the engineer,” nor does he/she want to be cut off from the rest of his/her life. That’s water under the bridge. There are no more consumers, neither clients, nor candidates, nor graduates. There are people: Juanes, Cecilias, Lucios…

That’s why we don’t think about cutting ourselves off in a CV. We aren’t a chronological compendium of work experiences predefined in a formula invented in 1482 (yes, yes, I don’t want to bore you, but you know that the CV is the invention of another era; that’s why it has a Latin name). The CV can never be a compendium of everything I am. No one from my generation is capable of being summarized on a single page. The CV is a technical description of oneself. It’s a hard, dry, structured document. It’s devoid of soft aspects. No one includes emoticons; no one shows feelings or mentions the other elements of his/her life.

A CV is simply a tool tailored to organizations that – logically – must continue fitting everyone into a single matrix so that they can compare and select. Note: I’m not questioning the CV itself. A round of applause for the CV. Few things have remained valid since 1482. The CV has been fantastic so far. It’s perfect for that paradigm in which companies choose talent with omnipotence and discard the majority. However, it just so happens that those times have passed and the so-called “talent war” needs new solutions to new problems. Will we continue making our choices using only a CV?

Fear doesn’t fight: it paralyzes!

In the war of talent, companies are paralyzed by fear. They think they lack a budget, but I think what they lack is courage. The formulas they find are within the old paradigm, and they aren’t satisfactory. They don’t mix the hard and soft elements. It’s necessary to recognize and forget about fear. When someone has panic attacks, if they don’t recognize them, they can’t fight them. The same happens in this case. In companies, there is more fear than budget. Such companies are used to a certain way of seeing things. However, to win the talent war, it’s crucial to think outside the box. The problem isn’t so much understanding the new generations but how to use that information differently. It’s like when you go to therapy for the first time and discover your story from another place. It can be very revealing.

As in therapy, clarifying our motivations, what makes us who we are, our fears and our history, allows us to understand. However, changing and growing requires much more than knowing and learning. It requires courage. Broadly and generally speaking, all companies are standing in this place. They feel that they are amid “a war” because they haven’t yet managed to connect to the new generations, who experience another dynamic, another way of thinking. Opportunities appear when we pass without victimizing ourselves to be protagonists, when we take charge of our lives. In this case, for those who dare try new methods, the opportunities are significant. There will be perfect recipes in this book. I don’t believe in them. Those who realize this and learn to manage themselves in the new world are those who not only stay with the best people but who attain the admiration of others. They are the ones who win the talent war.

The spermatozoid’s road

In the classic view, a company that seeks someone appeals to one-to-many communication. Put a notice in the newspaper or on an employment portal, and I, as the candidate, must find the notice in the correct medium and answer it. My CV thus starts a journey of improbable success. It must compete with dozens, hundreds or maybe thousands of other CVs. And, among those, surely one or two people will get the position. The CV takes the path of the sperm, running a blind marathon to reach the ovule.

Because the chances of my CV standing out are so remote, the temptation exists to increase my chances of success by any means possible. I want to improve my CV, ensure it makes an impact, change it so that it reflects what I think every company demands. This requires an investment of time and energy that is rarely fruitful. Some job portals even charge (!!!) their candidates for this service. Another possibility is to use a photocopier to create a bunch of CVs and send them out indiscriminately. The reasoning is that sooner or later, if I persist, my document will reach the hands of someone with enough power to consider (my) merits and call me. There are all sorts of stratagems. There is an expectation of a game of appearances, which requires one to “make up” a CV so that it can compete with other (also made-up) CVs.

After all that, if my CV is chosen, the next step is to enter the selection process. I must overcome a series of barriers that each company has. These barriers can include several interviews with different people, psychological tests and aptitude tests. Many of these steps are standardized in different companies, and you can tell which kinds of things are useful to say (or not say). I’m aware that if I know this, those who are competing with me will probably know it too. Also, the chances are high that I would win over someone who was a better candidate than I was, but who wouldn’t have been better at the work itself (!!!).

This is still valid. Although the market is highly segmented, the selection process remains as though each position is highly desirable and coveted by crowds of people. Everywhere, they suppose that I’m very interested in the company and that I must feel lucky that they are giving me a chance. If you go to the HR section of any bookstore, you will find many books that seem to be self-help in nature but whose objective is to act in complicity to disassociate the candidates to overcome the selection processes: how to answer typical interview questions, what body language to use to simulate authenticity, and even why Comic Sans is not the best choice for designing a CV. Do we really want to meet the candidates, or are we inciting them to manipulation? What’s the point? Large numbers of companies make candidates feel like small people, not especially different from those next to them. They show faces like machines, filled with indifference, and they reduce the desire to enter for many of those who try. Those who enter may be satisfied but those who don’t – who are the vast majority – have had a rejection experience.

Deaf dialogue

There is still no real communication between companies and candidates. Each party has different expectations of the other. Many companies present themselves as the “number one” at something. They are Lionel Messi or George Clooney. It’s common for companies that want to sell to show presence data in different countries or global billing. They emphasize how well the company works and what a privilege it would be to become part of it. However, often that information is more relevant to a shareholder than to a candidate. Many companies sell something that candidates aren’t interested in buying.

More than seducing, this generates a conflict of scales. Because, to be short, when something is so successful and large, it is also distant and “suspicious.” We must build close relationships through which we can admire and discover each other. It’s a Match! It’s about mutual choices. When the base relationship is so uneven, the mutual factor is difficult to uncover. The idea is for companies to stop looking at their navels, to remove their makeup and, in the most natural way possible, show themselves as they are, to discover the people beyond the profiles. That is why I find, in Tinder, a reflection of all this. If you start reviewing Tinder profiles, you will understand that people who have several appointments to their credit have managed to develop a capacity for discernment about what they are looking for so that they are not deceived. That’s because it’s very frustrating to get to a date and find that the person’s appearance is unfavorably quite different from what appeared in those sexy photos I had selected. This is why many users add “the photos are updated” to their profiles: They look for transparency because, without it, there is no chance of a match in real life.

Humility? Why?

In the old paradigm, companies look at their navels and talk with hard data. Soft communication is missing. They don’t know what candidates find interesting. What makes the company attractive, so that candidates want to work there? A company starts from the position that everyone dreams of becoming part of it. One of the trends among men on Tinder is that they are sculpted and that they practice extreme sports. However, a woman is most likely looking for something else: a man to hold her, someone to hug her like in the movies, someone to share an ice cream with. A person. Many companies portray themselves as the bodybuilder. They expect everyone to admire them. However, a man who lends you a hand is much more seductive than a bodybuilder. Companies don’t realize this. What is “shaking hands” in this case? It may simply be the ability to use sneakers. Go to the soft. The soft involves the near, the palpable, the human. It involves sharing codes and understanding the other. Hard is not irrelevant; for example, physical attraction is still important. Yet conquest takes place on the side of the soft. That’s where a connection is generated. It’s where a match is made.

A candidate probably isn’t thinking about the next three decades of his/her career. Instead, the candidate is thinking about the coming years and his/her day-to-day experience. The candidate is thinking about enjoying life, which is taking place all around us. What seduces is the soft. The war for talent has wiped out all the perfect recipes. It’s a vacuum that generates the opportunity. And the tip of the ball to win it involves understanding hard and soft – understanding that the message sent by the richest, most attractive one isn’t necessarily the most successful.

Selection 2.0: The Tinder paradigm

Something happens when a company realizes that this experience of rejection is harmful to the company itself. It’s hurtful because not only do those who managed to enter have that image of the company but also many valuable people can be lost if they don’t feel welcome. Companies select people, but people also select companies. People want to be valued as people, and when we can choose, we will go to those who do just that. Companies that understand this are dedicated to building relationships with those who may be interested in working with them. They want to make themselves known, show the work environment, highlight employees’ achievements.

Social networks are ideal for this kind of thing. Through them, we can build a presence and develop our employer brand. We can offer different opportunities, which don’t have to be work-related but must aim to achieve an experience of mutual benefit. Consumer brands have long understood this. The “continue participating” (or, in HR language, “we will keep you in our database for future searches”) is harmful. Not only does the candidate experience the frustration of not having won the prize but he/she has the flavor of the generic, the letter. I’m that anonymous person who continues to participate.

In the new paradigm, all the caps have a prize. Not everyone can earn a brand-new car. However, there are many kinds of benefits. The one who didn’t get a job but who managed to obtain coaching, an internship, a university program, a course, or career counseling is not only happy but also empowered. They come out better.

Building relationships

One of Tinder’s benefits is that it saves time. In addition to providing an extensive sampling, it allows users to generate connections with other people before they get to know each other more personally. Each relationship is managed on its own time. However, with a little practice, a Tinder user can much more quickly filter out those who aren’t a good match. In the same way, we can determine which of our characteristics are better or worse. That is to say, although we aren’t achieving our ultimate goal, we aren’t wasting time. On Tinder, there is no rejection experience. When a match is not produced, it’s painless. We are building relationships, or at least learning how to build them. We are developing ourselves as candidates.

In the old paradigm, I select the best talents. In the new paradigm, I believe (or co-create) the best candidates. I think the key lies in generating learn-learn experiences (in which everyone learns). The people who haven’t been selected will value those who made an effort to get to know them. They will achieve a positive experience, which will be reflected in beneficial word of mouth. They will recognize those who treated them as people and who gave them tools to improve their lives. This kind of experience creates enthusiasm and excitement. The company not only gains a better reputation but also better candidates for its searches. You will achieve one of the most important goals: desire. Through desire, you will find better candidates.

Employees are people, candidates are CVs

It’s a Match! is much more present inward than outward. It’s amazing how companies have evolved in dealing with employees. Benefit programs are a great example of this. Companies, in general, already realize that it is necessary to balance work with the rest of one’s life, and they offer different ways to do this. The possibility of setting up a home office, and not as a favor but as a mutual benefit, is a win-win. Companies are loosening up their dress codes and providing unique diversity practices. The idea is to make the employee feel good as a person. This is of mutual benefit. Inside, companies’ methods show that an employee is more than his/her CV. Outside, myopia continues to reign.

Differences in brief

It’s no longer about selection, but about mutual choice.

In the old paradigm, talents competed for positions.

In the new paradigm, companies also compete for candidates.

Self-centered companies should stop looking at their navels.

In the old paradigm, companies spoke in a hard tone.

In the new paradigm, companies speak softly.

We don’t detect profiles, we discover people.

In the old paradigm, a candidate was liable to cut himself in a CV.

In the new paradigm, the candidate wants to be valued beyond his/her CV, as a whole person, with work being only part of his/her life.

All caps have a prize.

In the old paradigm, everyone competed for a bigger prize (the car, the trip) and “continue participating” was the norm.

In the new paradigm, everyone has a positive experience.

Transparency distributes power.

In the old paradigm, the candidates didn’t know with whom they competed, or what the process was like. Sometimes they didn’t even know the name of the company.

In the new paradigm, adequate information helps with decision-making on both sides.

We take advantage of communications.

In the old paradigm, the development of communications was a challenge to regular procedures.

In the new paradigm, it’s a huge opportunity.

About the Author

Carolina Borrachia is an expert in Employer Branding as well as a lecturer, university professor and author. Her first 10 years of experience were focused on the development of Talent Attraction Campaigns (Young Professionals and Interns) and Social Networks for Employer Brands with exclusivity for her client, Unilever Latam, a company that she regards as having trained her in this discipline. Carolina is CEO of Combo Employer Branding and is consulted by clients throughout Latam for her unique experience with more than 200 Employer Branding projects for leading employer brands. She recently developed the First Employer Brand Executive Program in Latin America.


Fernando Diaz

Dr. Diaz is the Dellait’s CEO, and he works as a Dairy Nutrition and Management Consultant. He provides consultation to dairies and feed companies including nutrition and feeding management, forage and crop plans, and research and product development of new feedstuffs, additives and technologies for dairy cows.

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